Friday, 21 August 2015

RIBBON & SCISSORS AGAIN FOR UNITED AT OLD TRAFFORD

Manchester United's victory over Club Brugge in the Champions League fizzed out quickly in the newspaper columns because the following day the club was beaten to the signature of Pedro from Barcelona by league rivals Chelsea. That particular vigil seems to have carried on throughout the rest of the week, so much so that for some, it will come too soon that United have a premier league game to sort out on Saturday lunchtime.

For the third week running, Manchester United have the opportunity to set the pace ahead of another weekend of league football. Having secured maximum points with only a couple of goals so far, Newcastle United provide the opposition this week.

The Match
Louis van Gaal is slowly but surely settling on a team of preference. It's not that he will admit it, but that he is quickly developing a nucleus of personnel around whom the season is likely to be built. The unchanged team in midweek could possibly take to the field again with the only question mark surrounding who to pick between Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger. The German impressed in his second half cameo in mid-week and it appears he will get the nod from the start alongside the ever impressive Morgan Schneiderlin.


Memphis Depay, hot off that 'I have arrived' performance in midweek will be desperate to keep his place on the left of attack and open his account for the domestic season. United were free flowing in mid-week, and that helped, but one wonders if the shackles could return to navigate the unforgiving waters of the premier league.

Ultimately, a home game against a mid-table side equates to an expectation that United should pick up all three points. This would not fall in the category of games that could be written off if the club failed. Therefore much like the 'cannot fail' mentality on Tuesday against Brugge, United have it all to do against Newcastle.

With a plethora of columns saved and bookmarked for the day that United drop their first premier league points, the jury remains firmly out on the defence and attack to prove that club has enough resources from within to sustain a challenge on all fronts. Moreso, the need for goals up top will be reinforced if the club struggles to get them for a third straight league fixture.  

The Opposition
Steve McClaren returns to his one time home in charge of the visitors on the back of growing pressure and criticism from the Geordie faithful after a dismal start to the season. A 2-2 draw with Southampton on the opening day was seen as a decent result but the 2-0 reverse in Wales last week was far from ideal.

Despite making a few additions in the transfer window, Newcastle still look a far cry from the side that could pack a punch under Alan Pardew. It must really hurt the Geordie fans watching Yohan Cabaye playing for Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace. I digress, but suffice it is to say then that Old Trafford was not high among their priorities in a week they needed to bounce back.

The Sub-Plots
Wayne Rooney remains without a goal of any kind since he nodded home against Barcelona in pre-season over in the USA. Failure to score at the weekend, against a club he usually scores against, will do little to abate the knives that are in full force out against him.

It should also interest to see whether Adnan Januzaj starts a third game in a week in a season where the Belgian really has to make it count. Already, he has turned out to be a better foil for Juan Mata by dropping to the right and allowing the Spaniard to come inside to his natural position. The Belgian's promotion in recent times smacks of similarities with van Gaal's experimentation of Frank Ribery in the Number 10 role and when it didn't work promoted a certain Thomas Muller to the first team for that position, pushing Ribery to his favoured wide position. It's a tad similar to Memphis' initial experimentation in the middle and then suddenly restoring him wide and picking an Academy lad to do the central role.

It's not to suggest that any of those have been afforded their final positions for the long term. Far from it in fact given that the transfer window remains open and the club are still expected to add to their attacking resources.

The Bottom Line
United have so far played their games without having to watch other sides make forward steps. Playing first again is another chance to set the pace again ahead of another weekend with two rivals in direct opposition. It's a chance that United need to take with both hands if only because it will hold the club in good stead when the more trickier days come around.

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